Whether you're buying a fixer-upper or opting for a new house, you'll need to get a property inspection, which will leave you with a handy checklist.

Inspections are essential if you want to ensure you're getting the appropriate value for the home you buy. Regardless of how new a house is or how nice it looks, there's a chance there are hidden issues that can't be spotted by an untrained eye. This is why you turn to the professionals to give you a comprehensive report on the condition of the property.

An inspection can be more crucial for fixer-uppers, especially vacant properties. You're going into the project with the expectation that you'll be spending some money on repairs. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't understand what damage the property has suffered, especially if this information can lower the sales price.

To help you determine whether sellers have given full disclosure and if necessary repairs are feasible, the home inspection services professional will hand you a checklist that details his or her findings.

What's included on an inspection checklist?

The exact layout of the report will vary from one inspector to the next. What will remain consistent is items will be grouped by similarity, and the process will look at several key factors. These include:

  • Appliances
  • Attic
  • Basement
  • Ceilings
  • Doors
  • Electrical
  • Exterior
  • Floors
  • Foundation
  • Grading
  • Leaks
  • Mold
  • Plumbing
  • Windows

The report will include details about any issues that are spotted at each of these areas. Based on the repairs, you may decide to forgo the transaction. If a couple of windows or doors need to be replaced, for instance, and sellers don't want to foot the bill, you may not spend a lot of money for the work to be completed. For roof or foundation repairs, on the other hand, you'll have to shell out a lot of money. In the end, it may not be worthwhile.

Protect yourself with a home inspection clause

No one wants to purchase a house only to learn it has costly repairs. Don't get locked into a sales contract that doesn't allow you to walk away if the inspection checklist reveals issues that you don't want to address. An inspection provision gives you legal protection if the property doesn't live up to your expectations and you want to drop the deal.

Keep in mind the inspection checklist could also be used as a bargaining chip. If there are issues that weren't previously disclosed by sellers, you have more leverage for price negotiations. You may be able to get homeowners to cover the costs or lower their asking prices. Of course, the state of the housing market - supply, demand and sales and price trends - can affect how well this strategy works.

Waiving the house inspection contingency

In some cases, buyers decide to forgo their ability to place an inspection clause in the sales contract and buy the home "as is." This is a rare practice but has some purpose. It can be particularly helpful in a competitive market, as sellers get the benefit of not having to pay for the inspection.

However, this is not to say the process ends there. You can still order an inspection. You'll be responsible for the costs, but the positive note is you'll be more informed about your investment. The checklist will help you determine the cost of the work that needs to be done, as well as aid in creating a timeline for the project, which can be helpful if you're flipping homes.